Fiona cuts power with strong winds in Atlantic Canada

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Fiona knocked out power to more than 500,000 customers in Atlantic Canada on Saturday, damaging homes with strong winds and rain as it made landfall as a large, powerful post-tropical cyclone.

Fiona transformed from a hurricane into a post-tropical storm late Friday, but forecasters warned it could still have hurricane-force winds and bring heavy rain and huge waves.

More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80 per cent of the province of almost 1 million — were affected by outages Saturday morning. More than 82,000 customers in the province of Prince Edward Island were also without power, while NB Power in New Brunswick reported 44,329 without power.

The fast-moving Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia before dawn on Saturday, downgraded from the Category 4 strength it had early Friday as it passed Bermuda, though officials there reported no major damage.

The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted early Saturday that Fiona had the lowest pressure ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada. Forecasters warned that this could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the country.

A local state of emergency was declared by the mayor and council of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality amid widespread power outages, road closures and damage to homes.

“There are homes that are significantly damaged due to fallen trees, big old trees that fall and cause significant damage. We also see houses with their roofs completely torn off, windows broken. There’s a huge amount of debris on the roads,” Amanda McDougall, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, told The Associated Press

“There is a lot of damage to property and structures, but no injuries at this time. Again, we’re still in the midst of that,” she said. “It’s still terrifying. I’m just sitting here in my living room feeling like the patio doors are going to come crashing down with these big gusts. It’s loud and it’s shocking.”

McDougal said the shelter they opened was full overnight and they will be looking to open more.

. The Federal Ministry of Public Safety recommended avoiding all non-essential car travel.

A hurricane watch has been issued for coastal areas of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has decided to postpone his trip to Japan for the funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

“We certainly hope there won’t be a huge need, but we think there probably will be,” Trudeau said. “Listen to the instructions of local authorities and remain there for the next 24 hours.”

The US Hurricane Center said Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) on Saturday. It was moving through eastern Canada.

Hurricane-force winds extended out to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extended out to 405 miles (650 kilometers).

Hurricanes are somewhat rare in Canada, in part because once storms reach colder waters, they lose their main source of energy. But post-tropical cyclones can still have hurricane-force winds even though they have a cold core and no visible eye. They also often lose their symmetrical shape and look more like a comma.

“Just an incredibly strong storm that made landfall. And even as it moves away, it continues to affect the region for several more hours today,” Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, said Saturday morning.

“Tales of a historic storm certainly seem to be true.”

Hubbard said he lost power at his house and had to drive the long way to work because the bridges were closed. He said there were downed trees and signs in the Halifax area, but the situation was worse in other areas of the province.

People in the area rushed to stock up on essentials and worked to protect their properties from Friday’s storm.

In Sydney, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton’s largest city, about 20 people took shelter at the Center 200 sports and entertainment facility in Sydney, said Christina Lammy, spokeswoman for the region.

“The main message from this is for people to stay home,” she said. “First responders are really stressed right now. We want people to stay off the roads. There are hazards on most roads, with downed power lines and trees.”

Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said Fiona is shaping up to be a larger storm system than Hurricane Juan, which caused extensive damage to the Halifax area in 2003.

He added that Fiona is about the same size as Post-Tropical Storm Dorian in 2019. “But it’s stronger than Dorian,” he said. “This is sure to be a historic, extreme event for eastern Canada.”

Authorities on Prince Edward Island sent an emergency alert to phones warning of potential severe flooding on the province’s north coast.

Authorities in Nova Scotia also sent an emergency alert to phones warning of Fiona’s arrival and urging people to stay inside, avoid the coast, charge devices and have enough supplies for at least 72 hours.

Fiona has so far been charged with at least five deaths – two in Puerto Ricotwo in the Dominican Republic and one on the French island of Guadeloupe.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said newly formed Tropical Storm Ian in the Caribbean is expected to continue to strengthen and hit Cuba early Tuesday as a hurricane, then hit southern Florida early Wednesday.

Its center is about 315 miles (519 kilometers) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 km/h). A hurricane watch has been issued for the Cayman Islands.

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